Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Racism in the Kansas City Area: 1900s - Present

Continuing from yesterday's post, today I will be talking about racial relations in KC from the 1900s, bringing it up to pretty much were we are today.

55% of the black population of Missouri had migrated to the cities by 1900. Just ten years later, 67% of blacks lived in cities, confined to ghettos with crowded, unsanitary conditions where crime flourished. Bad housing led to more health problems which low incomes made hard to purchase medical care, especially as white doctors and hospitals frequently denied care to African-Americans.


Jim Crow laws were in effect, barring blacks from trying on clothes at stores, using public transit, and continuing segregation of schools and unions. Additionally, attempts to move into white neighborhoods were often met with violence and police brutality was common.

According to the 1930 census, blacks were usually laborers with 30.8% working in manufacturing/mechanical industries and 34.3% working as domestic/personal service or janitors. 80% of black women over 10 years old were servants, hair dressers, boarding house operators, laundresses, laundry workers or waitresses. Discrimination blocked most other opportunities and education for blacks often stopped in their teens when they would join the workforce.


A chapter of the NAACP and the Urban League of Kansas City were created in the early 1900s in an attempt to bring equality, employment assistance and recreational activities to the black population of Kansas City. These efforts were met with limited success, but did lead to the creation of a YMCA on 19th and Paseo, which provided the black community with a recreational facility to call their own.


During WW1 blacks were encouraged to enlist and 9,200 from Missouri did although they were not allowed to fight usually and were instead forced to load and unload ships and drive trucks. During this time, many moved from Missouri to the north to fill labor needs in shipyards, railroads, car factories and meat and flour packing houses. After the war, blacks expected to share equally in the benefits of victory but instead found the 20's and 30's extremely hostile.

Post-war job and housing shortages caused many blacks to be homeless and others to move into white neighborhoods, which scared and angered all the whiteys, some of whom moved away and others threatened to cause personal or property damage. This kind of hatred was also extended to Jews, "Communists" and any other faction whites considered to be less than 100% American. The Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a burst of membership growth during this period. While mostly centered in rural Missouri, there was also a strong faction in St. Joseph where a pro-Klan paper was published.


After the stock market crash of the 30's, even more hostility was directed towards minorities and segregation continued to rule. New Deal policies eventually helped the economic situation, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (office pictured above) especially was a boon to the black community as thousands of young people were hired to reforest areas of stripped land. The National Youth Administration also empowered black students to earn a college degree or to learn a trade.


WW2 also gave blacks new opportunities for employment in both jobs at home and in the military. 1 million black soldiers served in WW2, but after the war things were still no better for them. And once again a post-war job crunch caused minorities to be slighted. In the 1950s there were 109,024 blacks in the Missouri labor force; 59,081 were in service employment; 18,000 were laborers and 23,305 were connected with industry. Promotions were rare and white collar jobs even more rare. Blacks were the first to be fired during layoffs.

In 1954, the Supreme court declared racial segregation in schools to be unconstitutional and in 1955 caused public swimming pools to desegregate. Theaters, libraries and parks also desegregated at this time. Desegregation caused massive job loss for black teachers but achieved little else in terms of equal treatment for blacks and other minorities.


Public protest and organized demonstrations on both a local and national level helped to bring about more legislation changes, but blacks were still largely denied acceptance at white colleges and universities, unemployment rates remained high as did poor housing and a generally low quality of life.

In 1968, Kansas City refused to close its schools in honor of Martin Luther King's Death. In response, 300 black students marched to city hall in protest. They were met by police with tear gas who dispursed the crowd. Cops then went to Lincoln High School - an all black school - and used tear gas on students standing outside of it, driving them inside and then back out again with tear gas. At dusk, fighting broke out between police and black protestors, who used molotov cocktails against them. The National Guard was called out and 2 people were killed, 44 hurt and 175 arrested. Fighting broke out again the next day and 5 blacks were killed, 10 wounded by sniper fire and 275 arrested. Public officials later stated that law enforcement had overreacted.


Violence of this type drew attention to the horrible conditions of ghettos, but since violence also often took place in those areas, it made homelessness and job losses that much worse. But any strides towards social justice that took place in the 60s were once again halted by economic problems in the 70s. A revival of racism and anti-black violence marked this decade as the KKK once again rose to prominence. A mid-70s recession caused many in the US to struggle for their survival, especially blacks who lost twice as many jobs as white workers.

Additionally, a 1975 Missouri Human Rights Commission study showed that schools were still largely segregated and Urban Renewal programs displaced blacks while poverty and racial discrimination kept them from finding affordable housing. Black owned businesses were still laregely service oriented, two major exceptions being Ollie Gates & Sons and Arthur Bryant's. The most successful arena for blacks in the 70s was politics with Missouri ranking second in the nation for blacks serving in state or legislative bodies.

In the 80s, Regan stopped the national enforcement of civil rights. Ghettos remained poor places to live, experiencing the highest murder and premature death rates from rampant cancer and AIDs. But politically, blacks still had power and many were elected despite continuing racial hatred in Missouri where in 1988 the most incidents of racial harassment in the nation were reported.

To this day I think it's safe to say that politically blacks win the most compared to economic and social arenas where the overwhelmingly white population still is terrified of difference. By and large white people still avoid the inner city and the schools there, deeming them "not good enough" or "not safe enough" for them and caring little about the communities that do live there.

Overall I still think that we are stuck in the past with this stupid mentality that skin color somehow really does make a difference in how someone is judged. Whites seem to keep making excuses for racism that I just find more and more outmoded and ridiculous as those crazy people who think abstince-only sex education makes sense.

What has really changed? Cops still use more brutal force on minorities than on whites. Blacks are still segregated largely into "their" neighborhoods and "our" neighborhoods. Racism is rampant throughout our society and hate crimes still happen all the damn time. We even have the stupid assholes from the KKK back in prominence because of all the white folk up in arms about Obama's election. All in all, I feel this little video still sums up the whole problem: white people are freaked out for no reason and refuse to move past their social conditioning in order to create change and accept others.



Sources:
Take Up the Black Man's Burden: Kansas Cities African-American Communities, 1865-1939
Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 1763-1865
Missouri's Black Heritage


Related posts:

Racism in the Kansas City Area: Western Expansion - 1800s
Racism in the Kansas City Area
How Obama Gave Me My Pride Back

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6 comments:

Eric said...

Great posts. Very well written. Also, you are now a member of a club I like to call "People who use Michael Moore in their blogs, even though they don't really agree with alot that he says." It's a fun time.

Cheers.

CHARISSEGLENNON said...

I am a white femalw in o.p. ks . Mother of 3 children.I < Charisse Glennon, on January 19th 2009 will protest the resistance futre of our community , children and fight for the right of unity and healthy forwardism ( new word for those who are ignorant) As of Tuesday January the 20th , We as Americans have a new and fresh BLACK PRESIDENT. We as community members, parents, friends, operating people in our community need to evolve and move forward for our future generation, our children need to learn new and updated , new research in our politics and theories and realistic facts!!!!!!!
I plan on standing on 75th and Metcalf early morning 1/19/08 to unite ( not to rally or protest) but to unite human beings that have been tought and learned that they are this or that. We have sheltered ourselves against ourselves and the evolution will no longert allow this. OUR HUMAN DIALOG HAS JSUT CHANGED AND YOU ARE NOW WELCOME TO JOIN ME !! We all are one and need to follow the nature of polotics and shut up and listen!!! (913) 602 -5126 1/19/09

CHARISSEGLENNON said...

I am a white femalw in o.p. ks . Mother of 3 children.I < Charisse Glennon, on January 19th 2009 will protest the resistance future of our community ( ALL BLACK AND WHITE COMMUNITIES WILL REUNITE JOHNSON CO AND WYANDOTTE CO , children and fight for the right of unity and healthy forwardism
( new word for those who are ignorant) As of Tuesday January the 20th , We as EQUAL Americans have a new and fresh BLACK PRESIDENT. We as community members, parents, friends, operating people in our community need to evolve and move forward for our future generation, our children need to learn new and updated , new research in our politics and theories and realistic facts!!!!!!!
I plan on standing on 75th and Metcalf early morning 1/19/08 to unite ( not to rally or protest) but to unite human beings that have been tought and learned that they are this or that. We have sheltered ourselves against ourselves and the evolution will no longert allow this. OUR HUMAN DIALOG HAS JSUT CHANGED AND YOU ARE NOW WELCOME TO JOIN ME !! We all are one and need to follow the nature of polotics and shut up and listen!!! (913) 602 -5126 1/19/09

Deborah said...

Hello, Help....I attended a racist rally in Camdenton Missouri
disguised as a "Tea Party" rally..
I need you blogs.......Please read and go to link....
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Camdenton Missouri.
I have been working for years with depressed teens that are devastated that they are "different" by skin color, sexual orientation or religious orientation at Camdenton High School.
I just attended a rally in the Camdenton high School gymnasium under the disguise of a "Tea Party" Rally.
To my shock and horror, I was at a rally that preached hate and prejudice.
I am very disgusted by the fact that the Camdenton school board rented out the high school building for $750.00 and allowed a public school building to be used to spread prejudice.
I am so angry because the speakers at this meeting were white Christians preaching hate against religion other than one, homosexuals, the passage of the Hate Crimes Bill, anti government, Obama, etc, etc, etc,
My concern is for the kids who attend this school.
How can multicultural, gay, lesbian, straight, atheist teens ever receive civil rights in Camdenton Missouri when their own superintendent of the school allows rally's spewing hate against them?
My opinion letter was published in the Camdenton Lake Sun Newspaper and I am sending you a link.
Hopefully you will blog your thoughts and I am writing everybody I find to stop such prejudice in this small white Christian town in Missouri.

http://www.lakenewsonline.com/opinions/letters_to_the_editor/x932361659/Lake-View-What-tea-party

I am fighting for civil rights of all kids.
please go to the link and blog...thanks
one voice makes a difference for our kids.
Sincerely
Deborah Webster BS MA CASA LPC
MFT PhD (DS)

Kelly oxo said...
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Kelly oxo said...
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